Thursday, June 16, 2005

Disturbing troop activity in Monrovia

The Liberian Observer has reported some disturbing activity in the capital Monrovia.

As the process of restructuring the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) was expected to begin today, June 2005 with the commencement of the payment to "war recruits" and "regular AFL personnel", more than one thousand aggrieved AFL personnel, Tuesday, went amok barricading the Ministry of Defense in demand for salary arrears and resettlement benefits from government before the process commences.

Angry AFL soldiers had earlier blocked the entrance to the Defense Ministry and set up road blocks in the streets preventing officials of the Ministry from leaving their offices sending waves of confusion across Monrovia.

The Defense Ministry chief of staff assured soldiers that they would receive checks, but insisted that their ministry was not responsable for the payments.

Yet Defense Minister Daniel Chea, who was one of the world's great comic Orwellian spokesmen when he served at the same post under Charles Taylor's dictatorship, sang a different tune. "There is no money in this ministry. We have to restructure this army. That's the bottom line. You can see the problem we're going to have if we don't restructure this army."

One of the most important principles to remember if you're an African government is this: if you pay no one else, pay the guys with the guns. The basic principle has been forgotten or ignored not only by civilian leaders (like Central African Republic's Ange-Félix Patassé) but even by military men like Zaire's Mobutu Sese Seko and Guinea-Bissau's Nino Vieria. And the latter two regimes were seriously damaged, if not overthrown, despite being far more entrenched in power than Liberia's transitional government.


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